Background Hevea brasiliensis latex serum is commonly used as the in vivo and in vitro reference antigen for latex allergy diagnosis as it contains the full complement of latex allergens.
Objective This study quantifies the concentrations of the significant allergens in latex serum and examines its suitability as an antigen source in latex allergy diagnosis and immunotherapy.
Methods The serum phase was extracted from centrifuged latex that was repeatedly freeze-thawed or glycerinated. Quantitation of latex allergens was performed by two-site immunoenzymetric assays. The abundance of RNA transcripts of the latex allergens was estimated from the number of their clones in an Expressed Sequence Tags library.
Results The latex allergens, Hev b 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 13, were detected in freeze-thawed and glycerinated latex serum at levels ranging from 75 (Hev b 6) to 0.06 nmol/mg total proteins (Hev b 4). Hev b 6 content in the latex was up to a thousand times higher than the other seven latex allergens, depending on source and/or preparation procedure. Allergen concentration was reflected in the abundance of mRNA transcripts. When used as the antigen, latex serum may bias the outcome of latex allergy diagnostic tests towards sensitization to Hev b 6. Tests that make use of latex serum may fail to detect latex-specific IgE reactivity in subjects who are sensitized only to allergens that are present at low concentrations.
Conclusion Latex allergy diagnostics and immunotherapy that use whole latex serum as the antigen source may not be optimal because of the marked imbalance of its constituent allergens.